Monday 13 August 2018

The Adults by Caroline Hulse @CarolineHulse1 #BlogTour @orionbooks #TheAdultsAreHere @Lauren_BooksPR #MyLifeInBooks

Claire and Matt are divorced but decide what's best for their daughter Scarlett is to have a 'normal' family Christmas. They can't agree on whose idea it was, or who said they should bring their new partners. But someone did - and it's too late to pull the plug.
Claire brings her new boyfriend Patrick, a seemingly eligible Iron-Man-in-Waiting. Matt brings the new love of his life Alex, funny, smart, and extremely patient. Scarlett, their daughter, brings her imaginary friend Posey. He's a rabbit.
Together the five (or six?) of them grit their teeth over Organized Fun activities, drinking a little too much after bed-time, oversharing classified secrets about their pasts and, before you know it, their holiday is a powder keg that ends - where this story starts - with a tearful, frightened, call to the police...

But what happened? They said they'd all be adults about this...

The Adults by Caroline Hulse is published by Orion on 23 August and is the author's debut novel, my thanks to Lauren at Orion who sent my copy for review, and invited me to take a slot on the Blog Tour.

I absolutely love this book! It's such a fresh and funny, yet poignant and so well developed story and I was hooked as soon as I read the blurb.

It's Christmas. The time for families and goodwill and when you are the parents of a seven-year old daughter you really want to make sure that she has a great time. However, if you are the separated parents of a seven-year old daughter, and you both have new partners, what do you do?  Well, in this story, those parents arrange for one big happy family holiday. Mum, Dad, young Scarlett and the new bloke and the new woman, and also the imaginary purple rabbit called Posey. A recipe for disaster? Maybe ....

The story opens on Christmas Eve with the transcript of a telephone call to the emergency services. Someone has been shot, but the reader doesn't know who, and doesn't know who the shooter is. From there, this incredibly clever author takes us back to a few weeks before Christmas where Matt, the almost-adult father of Scarlett tells Alex, his new girlfriend that they will be spending Christmas in a holiday village with his ex and her new partner.

From here, the reader gets to know each of the characters, and how they feel about the forthcoming holiday, including Scarlett and her faithful invisible friend Posey. 

Of course the holiday is not all plain sailing, but each of the adults do their best to get on. It's often fraught and sometimes embarrassing, but oh, it's so well observed. This author's ability to get into the mindset of each of her characters is just wonderful. The dry, razor-sharp wit in the writing, along with the often quite emotional thoughts of young Scarlett really does make for a fabulous read.

Interwoven throughout the story, there are police statements, taken from witnesses of the shooting mentioned at the beginning of the book. This adds a depth to what could be just a family drama, with a sense of whodunnit and suspense added to the story. 

I loved this book, it's a quick and easy read, and one that I was loathe to set aside. What a great new voice in fiction, I'm so looking forward to seeing what Caroline Hulse comes up with next.

My Life in Books - Caroline Hulse

I'm delighted to welcome the author, Caroline Hulse here to Random Things today. She's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life in Books.

This process has been way more thought-provoking and meaningful than I expected – one of my favourite parts of the publication process so far. Thank you so much for inviting me to do this, Anne!

You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood
It wouldn’t represent my reading habits if I didn’t start with contemporary crime before heading back in time. I love thrillers, I love the puzzle element and a neat ending. I even thought I wrote thrillers until my agent and editor repeatedly pointed out I write comedy. But a lot of the genre expectations can mean books feel samey, so I love it when I read something that does something different. Like this book does. One long monologue from a self-representing defendant, what’s not to love?

Long Way Home by Eva Dolan

Another contemporary crime novel. Eva’s fresh take on the genre, with a focus on social injustice, adds that extra element for me and lifts her books a cut above.

Since becoming a ‘proper’ author I have made a conscious decision not to talk politics, for reasons of privacy. And that makes me respect people even more who have the courage of their convictions. I looked Eva up afterwards and found she was a fellow poker player, which leads me to…

For Richer, For Poorer by Victoria Coren

I am a games geek. In real life I am a ‘nice’ person, a bit of a people-pleaser. However, I love the thrill of the competition. I love playing to win, whether it’s quizzes, board games, or cards. I always played home games of poker, but when my friends started having kids and my social life shrank, I heard Victoria Coren on the radio talking about this book, and the idea you could play poker on a different level blew my mind. I bought the book instantly, read it, and thought: I want to play proper poker, and understand all the maths and odds and theory. And, poker aside, this book’s beautifully written.

Harrington On Hold ‘Em by Dan Harrington

I didn’t want to go into a casino knowing nothing, and my interest was piqued by Victoria’s book, so I did what I always do – geeky research. I read Dan Harrington’s three books on poker and memorised as much as I could before I even set foot in a casino.

The first time I went into a casino, I was terrified, but it quickly became normal. I saw all kinds of society: from the shady end, people who ended up disappearing because they’d been banged up for life, to eccentric rich people, to problem gamblers. I have made friends for life in this community.

I’m playing much less these days. I can’t stand the late nights anymore, and I’m not as good as I used to be. If you don’t play constantly, it’s hard to keep up. But for a decade until very recently, this was my life.

You by Caroline Kepnes

A dark, funny thriller. I loved the twisted view of dependence and relationships, how the line between what’s romantic and what’s stalky is in the eye of the beholder. This is one of a triangle of perfect books I read from US writers about relationships. They opened my mind to writing more honestly about the darkness within.

For me, Caroline Kepnes, Gillian Flynn and Megan Abbot are just brilliant at describing complex contemporary relationships, and combining that with a page-turning plot.

Me Cheeta by James Lever
Not for everyone, this book. An animal narrator reminiscing about his time in the spotlight as the star of the Tarzan films, tales of snorting cocaine off actors’ naked chests in the movie golden age? Both funny and moving, and I cried and cried.

I’ve never read anything like this and it made me want to write what I wanted to write, not just what was known to conventionally work. In my head, I pair this with…

Quicksand by Steve Toltz

Like Me Cheeta, this is another acquired taste. It’s long, it’s meandering, with some crazy stuff in there, and I’ve bought it for two friends who never mentioned it again.

BUT. The outlook. The mix of tragedy and humour in this book about failure and self-destructiveness. It’s so so funny, while so dark.

I really recommend the audio version of this book – the narrator gets the comedy timing perfect and this is why I always listen to, rather than read, this book.

The Tiger that Isn’t: Seeing Through a World of Numbers by Andrew Dilnot and Michael Blastland

I love maths and stats, but get so frustrated at the way figures are supported, that ‘facts’ are not something solid, but can be filtered or emphasised to support the view of whoever is presenting them.
I read this book about fifteen years ago, and reread it every year or so. It’s accessible in explaining things to consider when being given factual information. Tis book crystalised a lot of thoughts I had, explaining why I felt uneasy about passively receiving factual information.

I am still wary of stats. I have written enough presentations myself in the workplace, selecting the figures to go in and how to present them, to know that how you tell people things really influences their judgement.

The Unnamed Bestseller

I always wanted to write, but thought that was something for ‘other’ people – people who were super creative and didn’t need to earn money. The whole ‘starving artist’ idea has never appealed to me.

But nearly twenty years ago I read a book on the bestseller list that I found really uninspiring, and it spurred me on to think maybe I could do it. I started writing after work and at weekends.

The Mary Whitehouse Experience Encyclopedia by David Baddiel and etc.

I loved this show in the 90s. David Baddiel, Rob Newman, Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis stood on a stage and my teenage self was wowed. They were so funny. So clever.

This was the spin-off book to the series. I read and reread it, more than any other book. The content is quite wide-ranging. There are some puerile jokes, quite a lot about who the writers fancied on Neighbours at the time. There are some jokes that probably wouldn’t stand the test of time, some absolute corkers.

If I ever do a pub quiz and a question about Egyptian presidents comes up, I always Anwar Sadat, and look momentarily impressive. You think I know a lot about 1970s Egyptian politics? NO. I just read the Mary Whitehouse Experience book a thousand times in the nineties.

Caroline Hulse - August 2018 

Caroline spends most of her days writing, having fulfilled her dream of having a job she could do in pyjamas. 
She also works in Human Resources sometimes. 
She is openly competitive and loves playing board and card games. 
She can often be found in casino poker rooms, and wishes other people would want to play Cluedo for money. 
She lives with her husband in Manchester where the two are captive to the whims of a small, controlling dog.

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